The Liberty Theatre restoration project received the green light from the city for façade rehabilitation projects that includes building a new canopy and blade sign outside that will replicate the long-gone originals, removing and reframing storefronts to match the original façade, constructing a ticket booth to match the original and to restore brick. (BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH photo)
Project awarded a grant and gains city approval for facade rehabilitation
The Liberty Theatre restoration project took a couple of steps forward recently, as it was awarded a grant for planning from the Ford Family Foundation, and also gained approval from the city of La Grande to go ahead with façade rehabilitation projects.
The $4,000 technical assistance grant will enable the Liberty Theatre Foundation to work with Public Affairs Research Consultants Resources, a company that offers community development consulting services. The theater restoration group put up $1,000 in matching funds for the grant.
PARC Resources, whose Eastern Oregon office is located in Weston, helps in the planning and implementation of community projects, including finding and securing funding. Among its credits is work for the restoration of the Elgin Opera House.
Liberty Theatre Foundation President Dale Mammen said the Ford Family grant should give impetus to fundraising for the planned restoration of the Liberty, situated at 1010 Adams Ave. in downtown La Grande.
“It’s the next logical step in building the package, looking at the whole plan,” Mammen said. “The initial process is making sure PARC Resources knows about us, about our master plan and the fundraising we’ve done so far.”
The theater opened as the Orpheum in 1910, was renamed the Arcade in 1911 and became the Liberty in 1930. It closed in 1959. After the closure, the building was remodeled to accommodate retail businesses. The theater’s projection room, balcony, stage, some light fixtures and tiers for seats remain.
Mammen launched the effort to restore the old theater several years ago, and since then many volunteers have come forward to support the effort.
Work accomplished so far includes preliminary fundraising, some repointing of exterior bricks, and construction of a 50-seat entertainment venue in the back of the building called the Stage Door Theater.
Long range plans include a historically-faithful restoration of the 475-seat theater, plus an expansion into the building next door at 1012 Adams. The adjacent building, formerly the home of 1012 Adams Antiques, would house a lobby, offices, restrooms and an elevator.
Facade improvements are planned for the more immediate future.
Toward that, the theater foundation recently got official approval from the city’s landmarks commission for several projects aimed at a restored exterior.
On Feb. 13, the commission, which decides whether proposed rehabilitation and preservation projects are historically appropriate, gave the Foundation permission to move ahead with plans to build a new canopy and blade sign outside that will replicate the long-gone originals.
Also approved were proposals to remove and reframe storefronts to match the original façade, construct a ticket booth to match the original and to restore brick. The commission decided that a planned window restoration project included in the foundation’s application doesn’t require review and approval.
The foundation, along with Laura Prado of PARC Resources, held a community meeting Monday at the Cook Memorial Library to gain more insight into what the public wants for the theater. Mammen said Prado will use the input to begin building a plan for the major fundraising push.
“We had a really great meeting with lots of positive comments,” Mammon said.
Total project cost is estimated between $2 million to $3 million. The foundation hopes to raise that money through grants and private donations.
Mammen said he can’t project a date for the theater’s re-opening, simply because there’s so much to be done.
“The speed it happens at depends on our fundraising. At this point, we’re taking bigger steps than before, but smaller steps than the whole, $2 million to $ 3 million project,” he said.